Sunday, February 24, 2013

Amigos de Loreto - Friends with Benefits!

A little over a year ago the Inaugural Loreto Food and Wine Festival was held here in Loreto Bay.  As luck would have it, I was making a visit back to Canada that weekend and so I had assistance from some of the organizers to put together the posting “Food, Wine and Fun . . . Mar. 2012” about the event.  Like so many things here in Loreto, the Festival came together in the final few days, but regardless it was one of the largest and most successful events of last Season.

With the considerable funds raised during last year’s Festival a full functioned EKG machine was purchased for the local hospital and training was provided for the operators, along with other local donations to Caritas, the Internado School, the local Optimist Club, the Loreto Baseball League and training programs for Loreto Paramedics.

When the small committee that was involved in organizing the first Festival was able to assess the dual successes of the social event and the charity funds that were raised, they realized that this event had huge potential to grow and become even more successful and generate more charitable benefits in the future.  But to realize that potential they needed an organizational structure to plan and co-ordinate their efforts; both in organizing future events and distributing the funds raised from them, and so “Amigos de Loreto” was born (note: at the time of this posting the website is undergoing some “construction”, if this link does not work please try it again at a later date).

As a Civil Association registered in Mexico, “Amigos” can issue Facturas (or Mexican tax deductible receipts) for donations and contributions by companies or individuals paying taxes in Mexico which greatly increases the pool of potential donors and how they can assist with funds and “in-kind” contributions.  But what really sets this organization apart in my mind is the fact that after the initial success of their first event they made it a priority to create an organizational structure with a Mission Statement, financial transparency, and accountability. 

Now that this structure has been established with a broad based mandate to benefit credible charities within this community, it can now play an important role as a conduit for contributions above and beyond the specific events that are sponsored by the organization itself.  Now, there is a channel that can efficiently direct the generosity of individuals or businesses toward the most deserving candidates where it can do the most good. 

To extend their charitable reach, Amigos de Loreto has established a relationship with Hermosa Beach CA, Loreto’s sister city, and through that website, www.hb­ there is a link to enable on-line donations, through which support can be directed by specifying “Amigos de Loreto” as the beneficiary.  It is a further goal to establish a similar relationship through an appropriate Canadian link to be able to facilitate contributions from there as well.

The mandate of the Amigos Association is to support local non-profits focused on Healthcare, Children and the Environment within Loreto and the surrounding municipal area, which extends about 30 km around the town itself.  But perhaps it’s most important role is providing a credible and transparent organization to raise funds and distribute them effectively and efficiently in the greater community area, with the main source for this fundraising coming from the proceeds of special events like the Food and Wine Festival.

There is also a longer term vision behind the organization, and that is to promote and grow the public awareness of Loreto as a destination through the publicity and exposure that these special events create.  That is why this ambitious group, while planning an expanded second annual Food and Wine Festival, is already working on plans for additional events in the coming year that will bring increased exposure to Loreto Bay and strengthen the connections with the surrounding community.    

This year the Loreto Food and Wine Festival will take place on the March 23 – 25 weekend, an increase from the two days of the inaugural event last year, with a “White Night” opening party on the Friday, the Festival Street Party on the Saturday, followed by the Golf Tournament on the Sunday.  Members of the Loreto Restaurant Association will again provide a taste tempting selection of foods to enjoy, complimented by a much expanded variety of Baja wines. 

Tickets for these events as well as raffles will be going on sale soon and will be available at most locations in Loreto Bay as well as at participating restaurants in town.  Word is that the same “big band” that was such a hit at last year’s Festival will be making a return appearance this year.  In addition to the expanded schedule for the upcoming Food and Wine Festival there are also exciting new plans afoot for an Octoberfest here in the Fall focusing on regional and micro-brewery beers. 

As many of you who have been reading this Blog understand, there is a strong appetite within this community for almost any excuse to participate in some form of party or celebration.  While logically, as these events grow larger and more ambitious – and more successful – they require a correspondingly larger and more sophisticated organizational and support infrastructure. With the established model of many of these events including a charitable benefit to the community, their growing success creates an equally expanding source of donations that have to be effectively distributed where the need and positive impact is greatest.

In answer to both of these demands stands a new organization, Amigos de Loreto, providing the logistical wherewithal to grow one of the largest events from last year into an even bigger celebration this year – while growing their capacity to administer the correspondingly greater source of funds that will be the result of such progress.  Bringing people and their skills together for the benefit of those less fortunate who live in the surrounding area – while, at the same time, providing a growing number of signature events that will add to the enjoyment of those living here and help to spread the good news of the lifestyle that is possible – these are powerful forces to bring together that will have a growing impact on “Living Loreto”!